808s & Havana Heartbreak

In Camila Cabello’s “Havana” we hear both her Cuban roots and the modern sounds of Atlanta. Though the singer and featured guest Young Thug reference these two geographic identities, the song says so much more through its core musical elements. A Roland TR-808 kick drum evokes an entire repertoire of Atlanta Hip Hop, while the track’s supporting piano montuno descends from a Cuban style lamenting the loss of one’s traditional home.

Also in this episode, we discuss Cabello’s unlikely path to number one with writer Hannah Steinkopf-Frank — and the musical glass ceiling that holds so many young women artists back.


  • That mashup we mentioned is Havana and Kanye West’s “Wolves.” Spontaneous co-creation or intentional homage?
  • Switched On Pop recommends the podcast about sound: Twenty Thousand Hertz
  • Hannah recommends the book: Girl Groups Girl Culture by Jacqueline Warwick
  • Check out more music and writing from Kwami Coleman at his website
  • You can listen to you playlist of 808s and Montunos on Spotify

Songs Discussed
  • Camila Cabello – Havana
  • TI – Whatever You Like
  • 2NE1 – I Am The Best
  • Marvin Gaye – Sexual Healing
  • Mariah Carey, Jermaine Dupri – Always Be My Baby
  • Outkast – So Fresh, So Clean
  • Lil Jon – Get Low
  • Gucci Mane ft. Migos – I Get The Bag
  • Compay Segundo – Guajira Guantanamera
  • Cuarteto Caney – Guajira Guantanamera
  • Big Mama Thorton – Hound Dog
  • Elvis – Hound Dog
  • Little Mix & Missy Elliott- How Ya Doin?
  • The Shangri Las – Leader Of The Pack
  • Sleater-Kinney – I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone
  • Spice Girls – Wannabe
  • Spice Girls – Spice Up Your Life
  • The Ronettes – Be My Baby
  • The Shirelles – Will You Love Me Tomorrow
  • TLC – No Scrubs